FaithWorld

“Human rights” urged for whales & dolphins – is this a good idea?

whales

NE Pacific Transient killer whale in Alaska/Dave Ellifrit/NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center

Whales and dolphins should get “human rights” to life and liberty because of mounting evidence of their intelligence, a group of conservationists and experts in philosophy, law and ethics said on Sunday.

Participants at a University of Helsinki conference said ever more studies show the giant marine mammals have human-like self-awareness, an ability to communicate and organize complex societies, making them similar to some great apes.

“We affirm that all cetaceans as persons have the right to life, liberty and wellbeing,” they said in a declaration after a two-day meeting led by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS).

Thomas White, director of the Center for Ethics and Business at Loyola Marymount University in California who was at the Helsinki talks, said dolphins can recognise themselves in a mirror, an ability rare in mammals that humans only acquire at about 18 months of age.  “Whaling is ethically unacceptable,” he told Reuters. “They have a sense of self that we used to think that only human beings have.”

from Environment Forum:

Are whales and dolphins smart enough to get special rights?

whaleSome conservationists and experts on philosophy and ethics reckon that whales and dolphins are so intelligent that they should be given rights to life like humans. That could mean extra pressure on whalers in Japan, Norway and Iceland to end their hunts.

The focus on rights is a shift after conservationists successfully won a ban on almost all whale hunts from 1986, arguing that they had been harpooned close to extinction.

And in recent years (with evidence that some stocks are big enough to withstand hunts), many opponents say the moratorium should stay in place, arguing that shooting grenade-tipped harpoons at whales can mean a long, cruel death.